When the Tennessee Titans advanced to Super Bowl XXXIV following the 1999 season, it was widely seen as the start of an exciting era for the franchise that up to that time had been known as the Oilers.
Saturday’s announcement of the 2013 Pro Football Hall of Fame class, though, was another indication that in the years since the reputation of those Houston teams and players has grown. Whether it is simple nostalgia or the failure of the Titans to exceed or even match their initial performance, history continues to favor the Oilers in terms of the sport’s highest individual honor.
Defensive tackle Curley Culp, who played all or parts of seven seasons for the Houston Oilers, was among the seven players tabbed for induction later this year.
“This is a great day for Curley Culp and a great day for the Oilers/Titans organization,” the Titans said in a statement. “We are happy that after all of these years, his contributions to the game are being recognized.”
The veterans committee nominated Culp and Green Bay linebacker David Robinson, two of this year’s seven-member Hall of Fame class. Also selected were offensive lineman Larry Allen, wide receiver Cris Carter, tackle Jonathan Ogden, defensive tackle Warren Sapp and coach Bill Parcells.
Culp, whose career ended more than 30 years ago, is the ninth player in franchise history (he also played with Kansas City and Detroit) to earn a spot in the Hall of Fame. Five of the nine have gone in since the franchise relocated to Middle Tennessee, including defensive end Elvin Bethea (2003), whose induction came 20 years after the end of his career.
At the same time, none of the biggest stars of the Titans era, running back Eddie George and tight end Frank Wycheck among them, have yet to make cut as one of 15 semifinalists from an original list of nominees. Bruce Matthews (2007) was the only one of the nine who played for the Titans but the vast majority of his 19-year career was as a member of the Houston Oilers.
Culp played a total of 14 seasons and was with Kansas City when it defeated Minnesota in Super Bowl IV.
“Curley was a fierce competitor and a difference maker who commanded a great deal of respect,” Kansas City chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said.
The Oilers traded with the Chiefs to acquire Culp during the 1974 season. He made four Pro Bowl appearances in seven seasons and helped lead a franchise resurgence. In 1975, he had 11.5 sacks an d was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year as Houston had its first winning record (10-4) in eight seasons.
He also was a member of the teams that advanced to the AFC Championship in 1978 and 1979, the height of the ‘Luv Ya Blue’ era, to which four of the franchise’s Hall of Famers were connected.
“He became a backbone during the Luv Ya Blue years, anchoring a dominant defensive line for the next six years,” the Titans’ statement said, in part. “… The combination of Culp and fellow Hall of Famer Elvin Bethea were a dynamic duo. Congratulations to Curley and his family on a long overdue honor.”
That honor, though, does nothing to indicate when – or if – the Titans era will be viewed as the pinnacle for the franchise.